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Kenya commits to improving maternal and child health

Monday, 3 February, 2014

The ‘Beyond Zero Campaign’ has been launched in Kenya to strengthen maternal and child health and support implementation of the national plan towards the elimination of new HIV infections among children. This remains a significant issue in the country - 20 percent of all maternal deaths are AIDS-related and in 2012 alone 13,000 new HIV infections were recorded among children, yet 62 percent of children requiring antiretroviral treatment did not access it. The campaign was launched by Kenya’s First Lady, Margaret Kenyatta, to ensure prenatal and postnatal medical treatment is available to women and children.

Kenya has a generalised HIV epidemic with an estimated 1.6 million people living with HIV. Women are disproportionally affected by the virus - in 2008/09 HIV prevalence among women was twice as high as that for men (8 percent and 4.3 percent respectively). This disparity is even greater in young women aged 15-24 who are four times more likely to become infected with HIV than men of the same age.

Since 2000 prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) efforts in Kenya have rapidly expanded. In 2011, an estimated 67 percent of pregnant women living with HIV received the most effective antiretroviral regimen for preventing the transmission of HIV to their babies. However, there are geographical disparities, with PMTCT services only available in around half of the country's health facilities.

The ‘Beyond Zero Campaign’ is part of the Strategic Framework for the Engagement of the First Lady in HIV Control and Promotion of Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, which was unveiled on World AIDS Day 2013. It is hoped the framework will significantly contribute to ending new HIV infections among children and reducing HIV-related deaths among mothers and children.